Over the last ten years, gut health has received more focus than it did in the previous ten decades combined. And with each new study, we’re discovering that our gut health is far more connected to our overall health than we realize.
3 Reasons Gut Health Matters
Did you know that your gut houses a complex network of neurons? In fact, it has such an extensive landscape of neurons that many doctors and researchers call it the “second brain.”
“A deeper understanding of this mass of neural tissue, filled with important neurotransmitters, is revealing that it does much more than merely handle digestion or inflict the occasional nervous pang,” Adam Hadhazy writes for Scientific American. “The little brain in our innards, in connection with the big one in our skulls, partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body.”
As you look for answers to your biggest health issues, pay attention to your gut. Because as much as we view it as a simple receptacle for digesting and eliminating food, it does far more than this. Here are some reasons you should pay attention:
1. Cancer and Disease Prevention
Did you know that your GI system houses a large percentage of your immune system? As such, it plays a significant role in your overall health and well-being. If you find yourself chronically sick, it may have some connection to compromised gut health.
“The more time anything potentially toxic or unhealthy sits in your gut, the more time it has to react with the cells that are there and also affect the gut flora (the good and bad bacteria in your gut),” explains Kristin Gustashaw, a nutritionist at Rush University Medical Center.
There’s even evidence to suggest that an unhealthy gut provides a breeding ground for certain types of cancer. By caring for your gut health, you can create a more efficient system that processes food in and out of the system so that it doesn’t linger and create toxic issues.
2. Heart Health
The way to your heart is in fact through your stomach – at least in the sense that a healthy gut helps raise good cholesterol and lower the bad kind, thereby preventing heart disease.
“A 2014 review of several studies also found that eating probiotics—the live, good bacteria found in fermented foods—seemed to slightly lower high blood pressure,” nutrition blogger Laure S. Herr explains. “And in a 2012 study, researchers in Sweden found that, compared with the microbiomes of healthy people, the gut bacteria in stroke patients produced fewer carotenoids, antioxidants believed to protect against stroke and angina.”
In other words, a healthy gut can lead to a healthier heart. By eating well and doing away with bad habits that ransack your GI system, you can start feeling better very quickly.
3. Mood and Well-Being
According to Hadhazy, researchers have found that 90 percent of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from your gut to your brain (not the other way around). Sometimes this information is unpleasant, which can lead to issues with mood and emotional well-being.
In the past, we’ve been led to believe that stress and anxiety create problems in the GI tract. And while this may be true, the opposite is equally as likely. For many people, issues with digestion can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. These two brains communicate with one another, and the effects are sometimes unexpected.
By dealing with gut issues, many people will experience alleviation from anxiety and depression. Likewise, by dealing with anxiety and depression, some will enjoy GI relief. This just goes to show how strong this relationship is.
Take Control Of Your Gut
We’ve only covered a very small part of the big picture in this article. Your gut impacts nearly every aspect of your overall health and should be treated with greater care and sensibility. From what you eat to the medicines you take, every little detail matters. Be proactive about your gut health and reap the rewards of fewer health complications in the years to come.